On Thursday, Union Finace Minister Arun Jaitly presented the Aadhar Bill (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services), 2016 in the Lok Sabha. The bill caters statutory support to Aadhar, the unique identify numbar, through which the government intends to target delivery of subsidy benefits and services. The cost for the nationwide Aadhar exercise is incurred from Consolidated Fund of India.
According to the financial memorandum of the Bill, “An estimated expenditure of Rs. 13,66.22 crore has been approved for implementing the Aadhar scheme up to the financial year 2016-17.”
Through this proposed legislation the government hopes to address concerns that have been expressed on the mandatory use of Aadhar in government schemes. It is important here to mention that the Supreme Court has restrined the use of the Aadhar number until a Constitution Bench delivers its verdict on a number of cases related to privacy and other issues. One of the provissions of the Bill is that the Aadhar number cannot grant right of or proof of citizenship of domicile.
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The Bill caters for the settling of the Unified Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the establishment, operation and maintenance of the Central Identity Data Respository (CIDR). According to the Bill, the Authority has to ensure the security, confidentiality and protection of identity information and Authentication records of individuals in its possession or control, including the information stored in the repository. These comprise biometric information collected, created and stored in electronic form.
The Finance Minister presented the step as a Money Bill. Clause (1) of Article 109 of the Constitution of India state4s that ‘a Money Bill shall not be introduced in the Council of states’ (Rajya Sabha). And clause 2 of the same Article makes it clear that the Rajya can only make recommendation and cannot make amendments in the Bill; the clause further sates that Rajya Sabha ‘shall within a period of fourteen days from the date of its receipt of the Bill return the Bill to’ Lok Sabha ‘with recommendations and the ‘ Lok Sabha ‘may thereupon either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of the’ Rajya Sabha.Responding to the objections of the opposition of the Bill being introduced as Money Bill, the Finance Minister said, :… the substance of the Bill is that whoever gets subsidies, will have to produce Aadhar … This is in accordance with Article 110…. It is up to the Speaker now to decide whether it is in accordance or not”. Clause 3 of the Article 110 of the constitution of India states that ‘If any question arises whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the speaker’ of the Lok Sabha.
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However, the Finance Minister decision to introduce this measure as a Money Bill cannot be challenged constitutionally, as the sub clause (d) of clause 1 of the Article 110 of the constitution of India states ‘the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of India’ that is clearly indicated in financial memorandom of the Bill.
Aadhar Bill is one of the most transformative economic reforms ever. This Bill can help the government overcome the legal challenges in linking Aadhar to a host of government services.
This is a fact that there is no law in our country, based on which the Aadhar enrolments and use in government programmes have been occuring, always makes the UID scheme exposed to challenge. Adding to this woe, there is no legal resort now for a person in the event of any misuse of identify information collected in the course of enrolment or authentication. All these uncertainties would end once the country gets a law governing the Aadhar Project.